in my experience
SPEECH & LANGUAGE THERAPY IN PRACTICE
“The evidence base for effective work is insuffi-cient - this specialism will never be valued untilthis is rectified,” was the message I received froma gathering of speech and language therapistsfrom across the country who work with peoplewith learning disabilities. I took this back to theAdults with Learning Disabilities team inSomerset. We all agreed that we loved working inour specialism, we worked hard, we felt valuedwithin our multidisciplinary teams, and staffgroups and service users respected and trusted us.It seemed, though, that we had yet to win overour own profession. Fine. Easy. We would showthem. We would do some research.I was nominated to have the first go as I had alittle experience of attempting to do someresearch into in-house evaluation of the efficacyof Total Communication and, most recently,around Intensive Interaction (Irvine, 1998). After ayear of hard work - six months negotiating and sixmonths implementing - the research was totallyinvalid. Why? Because other people kept interfering!Firstly, the care staff who were using theIntensive Interaction noticed that the environ-ment in which they were working was dull anduninspiring, so they gave up one of their week-ends to alter my controlled room. We could nolonger measure the efficacy of IntensiveInteraction and the project had to be changed toencompass measurements around response toenvironment.
The next interference occurred because I was stu-pid enough to take a day off. While my back wasturned, my control was destroyed by a care assis-tant showing off her purchases from a car bootsale - bright, colourful, interactive toys whichwere immediately attractive to the fourteen peo-ple we were controlling researching.This was untenable but the worst sabotageoccurred because I’d made the mistake ofattempting to work within a multidisciplinary con-text. When the agreed six months period was overI went to collect all the video footage we hadaccumulated. We had agreed that five minutes a
Preliminary findingsof an informallongitudinal studyinto the research / practice interface:
noting the influenceof extra trees inthe wood ratherthan throwing thebaby out with thebath-water
if you•can smile at yourself •want to show yourtherapy works•think what you do isn’tworth writing up
takes atongue-in-cheek lookat the challenges ofevaluating theeffectiveness ofspeech andlanguage therapy.Although down, she isnot yet out, and evenhas some words ofadvice for would-beresearchers.